She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
She says: “How to love? What to love? Who to love? I found the answers in society, with the people, and for that, I give thanks to God. This was the way”.
She says also: “One day I stayed in the middle of the march instead of walking beside María Soledad’s parents as usual. Journalists asked me: Sister, have you quarrelled with the Morales? No, I answered. What has happened, is that the Morales are the symbol of justice and I am here in the middle because now the whole of Catamarca is crying out for justice for so many other cases”.
And she says: “When anxiety overcomes me, I pray and pray because I cannot lose my courage. I must have courage like the courage of Jesus. In 1998 they organized a national march and finally they managed to get a just trial and two of the guilty people were arrested. Argentina began to understand the value of public protest”.
Martha Pelloni – Argentina
She works for The Santa Teresa Foundation.
Martha Pelloni is an Argentinean nun who has dedicated her life to sowing tiny seeds. She leaves them in the souls of the people she fights for and of the people she has taught to fight. She knows that from these seeds, trees will grow and that these trees will bear fruit. She has many times moved enormous mountains with her faith, for example, when she suffered from cancer or when she challenged the impunity with which a little girl was raped and murdered in the province of Catamarca. Her fight, daily and untiring, has not stopped for two decades. At the end of the eighties she left her religious habit on the hospital bed and put on her the hospital coat. She was suffering from cancer and spoke to God, saying, “Sir, I want to change my life. If I can go on with it, I will not waste one minute of my time”. And her God listened to her and the cancer retreated. Since then, Martha Pelloni has dedicated her life to sowing seeds. “I think that every morning is like a resurrection”.
In Goya, a city in the Province of Corrientes, Argentina, she sowed the seed that produced the tree called the ‘Foundation of Santa Teresa’. This foundation has been fighting against different abuses committed in the city for more than a decade. The abuses include childhood prostitution, the illegal sale of human organs and sale of children to foreign clients. “But the fight has not finished there. We have managed to make all the country understand that this is not just a problem of Goya, but that it is a national problem”. That is because Martha Pelloni’s seeds have fallen in good earth. This earth is the souls of the people who listen to her.
“At one time I used to be a spokeswoman for the people without a voice, but not today, today I understand that people must talk with their own voices”. Martha Pelloni is like a guiding star. Even in the deepest night, her brightness shows the way. “We had to give people elements so they could learn to think, to decide, to act, to organize their communities”. This thought is a reflection of herself. Martha Pelloni forged her own destiny. Once, a long time ago, when she felt the first inclination to adopt a religious life, her father told her: “If I could see your vocation for a religious life, I would allow you to do it right now, but I cannot see it. You have to live a normal life and when you reach the age of 22, you can decide without my permission. You will be master of your life”. And Martha made her resolution: “I decided to leave everything and in 1963 I entered the order of the Carmelitas Misioneras Teresianas”. From that moment she has lived, devoting herself to her work. She has devoted herself completely to others. “I have nothing, but I have everything”.
Martha Pelloni was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on February 23 1941. “We were a beautiful family; my father, my mother and four brothers and sisters’. As a child she went to eight different schools. In spite of this unusual fact, her adolescence was like any others. She even had some early experiences of love. I had suitors, but I always lived through those experiences with an aftertaste of emptiness. God wanted me for something else”. Her life is a manifestation of her words.
1990 was a fundamentally important year for her, the year when María Soledad came into her life. It all happened in Catamarca province, in the interior of Argentina. Martha had come to Catamarca the year before, sent by her congregation to offer her services to a school in Maipú. Maria Soledad attended that institution as a student. On September 7of that year, María Soledad Morales went to a ball at the school. Three days later her corpse was found. From the beginning it was known that she had been raped and murdered. It was also known that the guilty parties were related to the governor of the province and that this case would naturally be ‘forgotten’ like so many others.
“Catamarca is a feudal province where the offspring of the functionaries own the night, the drugs, the alcohol and the lives of women”. But Martha decided to fight and organized the community to challenge the impunity with which these young people acted. They organized marches and raised their voices in protest. In the beginning there were only a few of Maria Soledad’s fellow-students on the marches. Later the fathers and mothers of the students joined them and then people from other communities, until the entire populace took to the streets with Martha Pelloni. At a certain moment up to 30 thousand participated in the marches that took place, week after week, for months. And that was only the beginning. The steps they took, led to other investigations being opened up, investigations into other cases, which had been quietly ‘forgotten’.
There were eight years of struggle for María Soledad. During that time she suffered threats and insults. She was attacked on more than one occasion and was afraid of being poisoned. But she went ahead, resolute and brave. Martha Pelloni lit up the darkness with a candle. She sowed a seed, maybe a small one, but the tree that grew from it is immense. Its foliage, seen from below, is as big as heaven. Seen from above, it has the exact dimension and form of the province of Catamarca!
And the time for sowing continues. Nowadays Martha Pelloni lives in Curuzú Cuatiá, in the South of the province of Corrientes. “We are working to combat childhood prostitution and the illegal sale of human organs”. She never rests. Because of her age, she retired from her teaching work a few years ago, and also because, as she says, “I am more interested in social work and it demands a great deal of mobility so it is better not to be tied to the routine of an institution”. In the place where she lives, she has organized a centre for the defence of human rights. From there she is in contact with the problems of her community and works for their solution. Her conviction and devotion continue to be strong. “I have to show the humanity of Jesus. That is the reason he became a man. We shall not find answers in the stratosphere. To be able to produce peace we must look for the values we have lost, here on the earth”.
Martha Pelloni is herself a seed. “Today, at my age, I can say that it is enough just to love the people. We don’t need a place or to know what happens there. We don’t need to know how they live or where they come from. How should I love, in what way, who? I found the answers in society, with the people, and for that I give thanks to God. That was the way. (1000PeaceWomen).
The future is today: THEY ARE OUR CHILDREN: Poverty is a crime. It must be stopped. In our country there is no lack of food, or dishes, or mothers, or doctors, or teachers. What is lacking is political will power, institutional imagination, cultural understanding and the desire to build a society that guarantees each Argentine child the vital opportunities to develop in good health and grow up with dignity.
Children are the main natural non-renewable resource in our country, since most human capabilities are in some way determined during the first years of a child s life. Children are therefore the great opportunity society has to improve itself biologically, culturally, economically, even politically. Children are the most fertile soil to sow intelligence, work, creativity, justice and democracy. (full text).
Read the following texts in spanish:
- Carta de una Madre en el dolor.
- Proponen a cinco argentinas para el premio Nobel de la paz.
- Adopción versus tráfico de niños.
- Grave denuncia de la hermana Martha Pelloni.
- Por la paz.
- La Hermana de todos.
- Nuevo reclamo de justicia en las calles de Catamarca.
La fe, en libertad: Desde su participación en las movilizaciones después del crimen de María Soledad Morales, Martha Pelloni no ha dejado de trabajar por la vigencia de los derechos humanos. Para que de una vez por todas salga una ley contra la trata y el tráfico de personas con fines de explotación sexual, la política oficial tiene que ser transparente. Pero me pregunto si existe una decisión política real por parte del Gobierno para que esta ley pueda sancionarse.” La frase que espesó el aire de un prestigioso auditorio fue pronunciada con la sonrisa de quien acostumbra a desmerecer el miedo. Y su portadora, Martha Pelloni, conoce de sobra que algunas chicanas pueden encender caminos. “Hay que socializar la resistencia”, recita con un guiño que encierra buena parte de su pensamiento … (full text).
Reportaje a la Hna. Martha Pelloni, Novembre 11, 2004, (APE).- A la hermana Martha Pelloni muchos la conocimos a principios de los 90, liderando las marchas del silencio en Catamarca, que permitieron esclarecer el crimen de la joven María Soledad Morales y terminaron socavando el poder de los Saadi. Luego la trasladaron a la ciudad correntina de Goya y escuchamos espantados sus denuncias sobre tráfico de niños. Hoy, en la ciudad de Curuzú Cuatiá, al sur de la provincia de Corrientes, la religiosa abrió una Casa de los Derechos Humanos desde donde continúa al lado de las víctimas de este sistema y dedicando su vida a los más pobres.
- ¿Cómo es hoy la situación de los niños de Corrientes?
En el interior del país es verdad la exclusión del 50 por ciento, acá lo vivimos mucho más que en Buenos Aires. Hay chicos que no tiene zapatillas y por vergüenza no van a la escuela. ¡Cómo puede ser que una familia viva con 150 pesos! La falta de trabajo es tan grande que el trabajo de los niños es una necesidad para el sostenimiento de la familia y no van a la escuela.
Para el día de Curuzú Cuatiá (16 de noviembre), el municipio hizo una fiesta en la que tuvieron que desfilar, obligatoriamente, todos los beneficiarios de los planes sociales y los comedores. Fue denigrante que tengan que humillar así a los niños y mostrar como un orgullo la pobreza y la barbaridad de que los chicos coman en comedores y los padres sobrevivan de planes sociales. Y ahora tenemos que estar preparados porque se vienen las campañas electorales para 2005 y los punteros empiezan a aparecer con cuadernos, zapatillas, promesas… (full text).